Bulk Handling Maple Syrup

by Tig Tillinghast

We took down the old greenhouse where we used to keep our main sap tank and its vacuum system, replacing it with the “sap barn,” a two-story affair that Robert and the boys put up in a few weeks over the summer. The barn itself is nice enough, but there are a couple special features we designed in for handling large quantities of sap and maple syrup. maple-sap-barn

In particular, we bolted on an I-beam just under the ridge beam, allowing a wheeled trolley to slide back and forth with very heavy loads. You can see from the picture on the right that we made the beam pop out the second story doors, allowing us to hoist loads from trucks below.

And given that our 55 gallon barrels of maple syrup weigh about 650 pounds, we added a surprisingly cheap winch crane to attach to the trolley. If this contraption doesn’t kill one of us, it’ll be very handy. Most of our bulk maple syrup, intended for wholesale use, will be hoisted up into this second story for storage over the year.

winch-crain-i-beam-sap-barnOnce the barrels make it through the doorway, we can drop them onto dollies and push them around. To accommodate this, the floor system up there was built 12-inch-on-center, with heftier stringers than you’d put in a residential structure.

Just because they felt like it, the boys opted to build the barn post-and-beam. Its a pretty old-timey structure, with about all of the design conforming to specific sugaring use. That seemed like a compromise at first, but it’s the more beautiful for it.


Robert and the boys have since thought they  might build these sorts of structures for other folks, seeing how smoothly this one went up. They went and created the site Vermont Cedar Cabins and have been doing some work in this line.

Meanwhile, back at the barn, we need to get the 600 gallon sap tank installed up top. Lots of vacuum plumbing yet to be done. That tank will have a four-inch pipe coming out of it, where we can operate a big butterfly valve from below to start the sap filling up our utility vehicle tank for transport over to the sugar shack. This’ll be quite a tweaking process. It doesn’t take much time for a four-inch pipe of sap coming from 18 feet off the ground to get someone wet. Should be interesting.


I’ve set up a small finishing room in the back, and that’s been working out nicely. We’ll be able to get the barrels up stairs started with heating (purchased a used barrel warmer), and then pipe it on down to get to sterile temperatures for packing.